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Vietnamese women excel in male-dominated crafts

Vietnamese women excel in male-dominated crafts

Sunday, January 11, 2015, 10:14 GMT+7

A Vietnamese girl has helped her mostly-male troupe win a national kylin dancing competition and targets at setting Asian and world records, while another woman is known for her exceptional stone carving skills compared to her male colleagues.  

Le Yen Quyen, 20, an asset to Luong An Duong lion-kylin dancing troupe in the central city of Can Tho, boasts unrivalled skills, including scaling 8-meter poles.

Lion-kylin dancing is a form of traditional dance in Vietnamese culture and other Asian countries in which performers mimic a lion's or kylin’s movements in a costume representing the animals.

The lion or kylin dances are usually performed during Tet (traditional Lunar New Year) and other traditional, cultural and religious festivals, and important occasions such as business opening events or special celebrations.

One of the dances’ dominant and technically challenging maneuvers involves performers climbing atop tall poles in the outfit.

Most performers are young males, as the dances are also physically taxing.

Quyen’s skills helped her troupe win the first national lion-kylin dancing competition, held in Can Tho in late January last year.

The girl is now capable of scaling 8-meter poles, and she’s ready to raise the height to 13 meters if challenged.

According to a master at Luong An Duong, Quyen’s current national record of climbing a 7-meter pole, which was established in 2011, would take quite a while for others to break.

She is poised to perform her stunt of scaling an 8-meter pole to set Asian and world records.

Quyen is also a taekwondo practitioner with a large accolade, which allows her good physical conditions to perform the most challenging maneuvers of lion-kylin dances.

The girl also trains strenuously every day by running around a three-hectare sports center in the city.

Quyen revealed the key to seamlessly scaling towering poles is climbing them on bare foot first before having shoes on to boost her joints’ flexibility.

She also makes sure the maneuvers are performed technically accurately to avoid falling from the poles.

Though Quyen has only been engaged in the art some five years ago, she has excelled in all its techniques and boasts stamina, physical strength and flexibility  which the art requires, the Luong An Duong master noted.  

Quyen is rehearsing hard for her troupe’s performances during Tet (traditional Lunar New Year,) which is only one month away, to raise money for the needy students at a medical college which she has recently graduated from.

The stone-carving woman

Le Thi Hoa Binh, a 39-year-old carver at the nationally recognized Non Nuoc Stone Carving Village in Ngu Hanh Son District in the central city of Da Nang, is widely known for her brilliant skills.

Binh, of Le Thang Stone Carving business, is the village’s only woman who still pursues the craft.

Her artistry and finesse are considered on par with her male colleagues.

Binh has crafted more than a thousand stone statues, including sophisticated ones, which are highly regarded by her fellow carvers and clients.

Clients often insist she build their statues.

A seamstress in neighboring Quang Nam Province, she marries a man who is a stone carver at Non Nuoc Village.

In her free time, she would help her husband polish the statues.

Captivated by the statues’ dexterity, she quit her sewing craft and learned the stone carving skills from her husband some 15 years ago.

She has perfected her skills since. “A skilled carver is supposed not only to create statues correctly from the models, but also to breathe life into their artwork and accentuate the statues’ air,” Binh shared.

Stone carving involves taxing tasks of stone splitting and sawing, which few women are capable of performing.

The tasks also produce a considerable amount of dust and noise, which poses health risks to the women.

A number of women are in charge of less physically demanding tasks such as statue polishing and embellishing.

Binh shares her passion helps her overcome the hurdles.  



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